It was a year into a new millennium, and a post-Y2K society was growing more comfortable in an ever-increasing dependency on new technologies. With Wikipedia.org launching mid-January of 2001, a new age of enlightenment had arrived. It was Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) who exposed Western culture’s folk music to this revolutionary digital age. Folktronica might not have been the brainchild of Hebden alone, but the producer’s sophomore solo LP, 2001’s Pause, quickly became a seminal title in the genre’s canon.

Hebden first began contorting ephemeral textures as the guitarist of UK’s post-punk outfit Fridge. Fridge’s Happiness, which dropped just one month ahead of the US release of Pause, shares a similar atmospheric framework of Kieran’s solo effort; each growing from the delicate conversation between rudimentary electronics and shoegaze guitar tones. By turning back and also giving a fresh ear to the collective’s “Tone Guitar & Drum Machine”, one can trace shared samples and motifs to Four Tet’s “Twenty Three”. Only by shedding that live instrumentation (and human limitations) provided by Adem Ilhan and Sam Jeffers could Hebden dive completely into the near limitless catalog of mankind’s audio recordings. It is no coincidence that the crashing of typewriter keys outlines both the introduction (“Glue Of The World”) and conclusion (“Hilarious Movie Of The ‘90s”) of the album; Pause was the preface to a new era in folk.

Like with nearly all organized systems, this persistent evolution was the result of incremental shifts. Whereas Four Tet’s equally influential debut full-length Dialogue was a product of its jazz samples, Hebden molded his chosen characteristics of the folk aesthetic around a growing nimble production style. Hebden erected the arch towards his version of folk futurism with the comforting tones of wind chimes resting among familiar riffs of an acoustic guitar and jazz percussionist. And, it’s eventually the timeless timbre of a harp, during “Parks” and ‘Untangle”, that propels Pause into more celestial realms. During the latter, a dub techno backbeat transforms classical textures into a downtempo melody fit for those final sweaty moments just before an Ibiza sunrise.

Set on a far more earthly palette than the electro hitting clubland, Pause was no less of an escapist treat. While it’s a tide that calms “Leila Came Around And We Watched A Video” and a tribal drum that sets the pulse of “Everything Is Alright”, each are exemplary examples in hypnotism. Each track freeing the mind in preparation of a trip to another astral plane. No formal study has been conducted, but there is no doubt Pause has fueled thousands of co-ed spiritual quests since its 2001 release.

While Hebden’s mixes and solo productions have continued to edge closer to traditional house stylings, these early efforts inspired dozens of the industry’s electronic influencers. It was after the release of Pause that Thom Yorke would invite Hebden to open for Radiohead during their 2003 European tour — a perfect mood setter for the band’s post-Kid A material. And the influence is most resounding at most any 21st century-hippie-friendly electronic music event. Almost one-and-a-half decades since Four Tet revealed the bliss of “You Could Ruin My Day” and acts like Emancipator Ensemble, Bibio and Simon Green (aka Bonobo) continue to try and match that perfect balance.

It might be difficult to hear, but Hebden has actually cited hip-hop/R&B producer Timbaland as a major influence during his efforts leading into Pause. More than the music itself, Hebden admired Timbaland’s natural ability to enliven radio-ready hits with an odd production palette that included “flutes and tablas.” It’s a skill that would incite Hebden to further explore the inclusion of “weirder instrumentals” into his own work. So, whether a creator or avid music consumer, may Pause be the first album that sets you on an equally enlightening listening journey. For the evolution must continue!

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